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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Friday, January 9, 2009

DNA Offers Two Hope

The DNA found on the electrical cord used to bind the hands of a shop owner slain 15 years ago doesn't belong to either of the two men convicted of killing him.

Fingerprints found on the door handle of the store's safe are not theirs, and the state's main witness now admits in a taped interview that she lied when she testified at their trial.

But Ronald Taylor and George Gould are still sitting in a Connecticut prison — serving 80 years for the July 4 murder of Eugenio Vega DeLeon in 1993.

The men are waiting for a Superior Court judge in Rockville to rule on their legal attempt for a new trial or for New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington's office to finish an investigation started two years ago, when questions about the case were first raised.

Taylor, 50, and Gould, 46, are hoping they become the latest Connecticut inmates freed by DNA evidence that proves they didn't commit the crime.

Two weeks ago, Taylor and Gould watched Miguel Roman, who was in the same cellblock at the MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, walk out of prison after DNA findings exonerated him after he had been convicted of a murder in Hartford. Roman and James C. Tillman, who was released in 2006 after serving 17 years following a rape conviction, won their freedom with the help of public defenders who target dubious convictions.

But Taylor and Gould have an unusual ally in their quest for a new trial. He's Gerald O'Donnell, a former Cheshire cop and state inspector who worked for Dearington before retiring to become a private investigator.

O'Donnell, hired by the public defender's office, spent more than three years reinvestigating DeLeon's murder, producing an 800-page binder complete with taped interviews of witnesses recanting their statements, newly uncovered DNA evidence and interviews with witnesses New Haven police never contacted during the original investigation. [Mark Godsey]

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